Enjoy Your Dinner

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The hardest battle to avoid is one brought on by your own expectations. It’s pretty normal for us to want our efforts to be appreciated. We moms (and dads who cook) often prepare meals out of a desire to nurture our loved ones. When that effort is rebuked, we can feel rejected.

First, it’s not you! Keep in mind that your tiny food critic just ate two-week old Cheerios off the floor — the ones the dog may or may not have missed. You did not get snubbed by Top Chef judges.

This one was the hardest battle for me, too. I needed to let go of the idea that my child would love every dish I created on the first try. That’s just not how kids are wired. It only took me a couple hundred “orange” recipes to figure that one out!

Simply cook healthy, delicious foods. Try some of the strategies in this series to help with particular battles. Prepare one meal for the whole family, and try to only introduce that one new recipe at a time with familiar favorites on the menu, too.

Chances are when your toddler sees everyone enjoying the new recipe without him, he’ll eventually decide to try it as well.

A few ways to avoid more battles:

  • Encourage, but don’t force a try. With other foods available, you won’t have to stress over whether or not your child is eating.
  • If a battle of wills is at the root of the conflict, try these tactics to defuse the control issues.
  • Enjoy your dinner — and show it. You cannot force a child to eat. You can, however, entice a child to want to eat what you are enjoying yourself.
  • Make a point to enjoy the experience as a family. For me, this meant letting my child feed me her foods, too. All the slobbery bits and early mush, er, foods. Still, I’d say it was worth it to take one for the team if it made trying new foods desirable and fun for my child.
  • Don’t fix a separate meal. This is a bad habit to start and once started, your child will continue to expect a short order kitchen.
  • Don’t limit your menu to “kid food.” Kids ate the same meal as their parents since the dawn of families. It’s only in the last fifty years that processed food marketers have offered unhealthy alternatives under the guise of “kid-friendly.” However, that limited palate of foods and menu centered on low-nutrition foods high in fat, salt and added sugars is anything but “friendly.”


Now, enjoy your dinner.

Published on: September 30, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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